It’s almost the holiday season, which means the end of a busy semester abroad. However, you can’t go home and relax until you finish your last final. All of the material you learned during the semester will come down to one exam – with a tight time limit. Don’t let that get to you. Use these study strategies to ensure you’ll remember everything on exam day:
Take Practice Tests
Many Caribbean medical schools model their exams off the USMLE Step 1 to better prepare students for the real thing. Find Step 1 sample questions that are close to the subject you’re studying to familiarize yourself with the material and build the confidence you need going into the exam.
Limit Study Sessions to 30 Minutes or Less
Cramming is ineffective for two reasons: you’ll eventually lose focus in one long night of studying, and you’ll forget most of the information by the next day. You’ll remember more of the material if you spread your studying out across short, multiple sessions instead of a massive three-hour binge. For maximum attention span, limit these sessions to 30 minutes. Any longer and you’ll start thinking about the next Star Wars movie.
Switch Up Your Study Areas
This goes against a lot of advice you may have heard but, according to cognitive research, repeatedly studying in the same place could adversely affect your memory recall. When it’s time to take the exam, the new setting might catch you off guard. Switching up the surroundings you study in will help you remember the material regardless of the environment.
Build a Memory Palace
Think of the information you’re memorizing as part of a vast mansion or the Empire State Building or whatever suits you. For example, if you’re studying Anatomy, imagine each room as a different organ with all the components that make it function inside that room. When you’re in class, start thinking about what that subject’s mansion looks like and you’ll have a more concrete vision of the material when you go back to study. During the test, you’ll know what corridors to walk down and what rooms to explore to retrieve the correct answers.
Act Like a Professor
This may require a second person for best results. Take out your notes or textbook and recite the information to your study buddy. When you read the material out loud, you’ll think about the content more. Answering any questions your “student” will help with critical thinking skills. Bonus: you don’t have to grade your student’s term papers.
Distilling your previously taken notes can help improve your analytical skills. To start, figure out which concepts can be chunked together, and how to express them in the fewest words possible. Pulling all the information together in one place will help you better grasp of the material and understand how it all fits together. Just be careful: some subjects may be more complex and may not fit neatly into one page.
Draw a Map
If you’re a visual learner, consider becoming a knowledge cartographer. Instead of rereading a textbook, take out a big sheet of paper (or several taped together) and plot each element of information as it relates to the rest of it. For example, if you’re studying Pathology, you might write down all the possible symptoms, visually marking which clusters of symptoms indicate which disease. When you step back, you’ll be able to physically see how the information relates. By the end of the map, you might discover the buried treasure: a passing score on your exam.
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